Page 1

Give it some glass

maGnetic attraction

Nu mb er 211

Number 211 | jaNuary 2013


a parade of

S ig n Bu i l d er i l luStr ated

>>> Dimensional Signs >>> Inkjet Trends >>> Outcast Kustoms

j aNu ary 20 13

January 2013

S1 26


The art of selecting awning materials & styles.

Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015-805) (Canada Post Cust. #7204564) (Bluechip Int’l, Po Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2, Agreement # 41094515) is published monthly by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 345 Hudson Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10014. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and Additional mailing offices. Pricing, Qualified individual working in the sign industry may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions printed or digital version: 1 year US $105.00; foreign $197.00; foreign, air mail $297.00. 2 years US $149.00; foreign $267.00; foreign, air mail $497.00. BOTH Print & Digital Versions: 1 year US $158.00; foreign $296.00; foreign, air mail $396.00. 2 years US $224.00; foreign $400.00; foreign, air mail $600.00. Single copies are $36.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only. Copyright Š Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2013. All rights reserved. Contents may not be


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013


Supplement: DimenSional SignS


Dimensional News & Notes


The Structure of Dimensional Signs


Mass-produced vs. Custom-made


Distinctly Dimensional


Dimensional Signs as Art


Dimensional Signs as Wayfinding


Adding Depth to Project Management


Products, news, and announcements related to dimensional sign-making.


Wingfield Sign & Graphics builds and installs an interior sign panel.


Knowing the advantages of a custom-made dimensional sign.


A monument sign gets the custom treatment.


Blue Genie Art provides a wide canvas for designing 3-D signage.


The function of dimensional elements in wayfinding programs.


How to successfully manage a dimensional sign project.

Now Trending in Digital Printing BY ASHLEY BRAY

Examining the trends and technologies in inkjet.

reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: Art Sutley, Publisher (212) 620-7247 or For Subscriptions, & address changes, please call (800) 895-4389, (402) 346-4740, Fax (402) 346-3670, e-mail or write to: Sign Builder Illustrated, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 10, Omaha, NE 68101-0010. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 10, Omaha, NE 68101-0010. Instructional information provided in this magazine should only be performed by skilled crafts people with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.



How-To Columns

20 16

Give it Some Glass

FEBRUARY 2013 February 21-23: The 2013 Graphics of the Americas event will take place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (

Attracted to Magnets? Three Questions

February 26-28: The tenth annual Digital Signage Expo® 2013, co-located with the Interactive Technology Expo and Digital Content Show, is scheduled for the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. (

16 Attracted to Magnets? Three Questions BY JEFF WOOTEN

Why should sign shops be “attracted” to flexible magnets?

20 Give It Some Glass BY PETER PERSZYK

Glass can add class to many sign projects.

Departments 6




Editor Jeff Wooten sticks to answers that will clear up any magnetic misconceptions.


Sign Show


SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade. GIVE IT SOME

MAGNETIC attraction

NU MB ER 21 1





>>> Dimensional Signs >>> Inkjet Trends >>> Outcast Kustom

J AN U A RY 20 13


Shop Talk

Jeff Wooten checks out the reality behind the reality TV of Outcast Kustoms.

a parade of

March 1-2: The Mid South Sign Association’s “New Ideas, New Possibilities” Conference will be conducted at Signs First in Jackson, Mississippi. (www.

The latest news from around the industry.

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.


MARCH 2013

On the Cover A row of striped awnings catches the eye in this photo by Alexander Chaikin/

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

March 26: The IPAF Summit access industry conference is being held at the Hilton Miami Downtown Hotel in Miami, Florida. (

APRIL 2013 aPrIL 3-6: The 2013 ISA International Sign Expo will be taking place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (

Super Satin Clear—10-Year Life Expectancy!

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Superior UV resistance 10-year chalk resistance; ASTM D4214 FLA-8 Dirt shedding surface Mar and abrasion resistant 1.24 lb/gal VOC ready-to-spray

Low VOC Basecoat Converters • Save time and money by painting a multi-color sign in hours instead of days • All you need is one can of converter plus your existing MPC toners

MAP Ultra Low VOC

• Exceptional durability and flexibility built into the paint • Environmentally friendly (as low as 50 g/L VOC) • Brilliant color with wide range of gloss levels

To learn more call 1.800.323.6593 or visit


by jeff wooten

January 2013, Vol. 27, No. 211 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

The Magnetic Misconception

executive offices

President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Publisher Arthur J. sutley

Are you avoiding printing directly to flexible magnet sheeting?


hile you’re busy tossing Old Man 2012 into the trash dump out back and prepping your premises for the arrival of Baby New Year, I wanted to point out that our first issue for 2013 has plenty of articles that are designed to help you out this brandnew calendar year. Our centerpiece this month is a specially designed sign-making supplement that will show you the techniques, equipment, and substrates that sign builders are employing to create dynamic dimensional signage, as well as an overview of some of the latest products that are available to aid you in this field. Elsewhere we also have features on awning material selection and the latest inkjet printing trends. In our how-to section, you’ll find an article about flexible magnetic sheeting (page 16). I’m fascinated with this topic because I think some sign shops might not understand how to get more involved with this material or make more profits from it. If you feel this is you, well this piece will feature three questions related to this that’ll be answered by material manufacturers. Then again, I’d like to take this opportunity to present a fourth question: What’s the biggest misconception about magnet (or magnet-receptive) sheeting? Well many sign shops still print to vinyl and then mount this to the magnet. But according to Nicole Sheridan, marketing manager for Magnum Magnetics, this can involve unneces-


345 Hudson Street, 12th floor New York, NY 10014 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863 editorial editor

Jeff Wooten

323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 252/355-5806; fax: 252/355-5690 associate editor

Ashley Bray

sary extra time and labor. “The biggest obstacle with new customers is getting the magnet to feed due to it sticking to the in-feed platen,” she says. “But once they understand how to create an air gap to achieve the feeding of the magnet, printing is easy.” If your platen is metal, the smooth flow of the magnet being fed into the printer will be restricted. “You can overcome this by covering the platen with styrene, chip board, vinyl, or duct tape to create an air gap between the magnet and the platen,” explains Melissa Thompson, sales manager, Flexible Magnetic Products, at Master Magnetics. Printing directly to the magnet sheet will also provide a higher profit margin for sign shops. “Labor costs are less than the two-step process of printing on a substrate and laminating to the magnet or printing on un-magnetized material and then magnetizing it,” says Thompson. Still Thompson has found that other reasons some sign makers are hesitant to print onto magnetic sheeting are because they either haven’t done it before or are concerned about printer head strikes. “Remember that everything run through a printer requires a unique set-up for optimal performance and quality; a magnet is no different,” she says. “If you keep the magnet from sticking to the metal, it really isn’t much different than printing on vinyl. “[Magnet sheeting] is much thicker than normal substrates, so keep your head height in a higher position. It’s also heavier, so adjust your print feed.”

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

345 Hudson Street, 12th Floor New York, NY 10014 401/722-5919; fax: 212/633-1863 contributing writers

Butch “superfrog” Anton, Mike Antoniak, Adam Brown, Jan Fletcher, Jim hingst, Peter Perszyk, Mark roberts, lori shridhare, randy Wright art

Corporate Art Director Wendy Williams Associate Art Director Phil Desiere production

Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers circulation

Circulation Director Maureen Cooney advertising sales east coast regional sales director

Jeff sutley 212/620-7233; fax: 212/633-1863 west & midwest regional sales manager

Kim noa

212/620-7221; fax: 212/633-1863

For reprint information contact Art Sutley 345 Hudson St 12 Floor New York, NY 10014 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863 Circulation Dept. 800/895-4389

Latex Unleashed!

Mimaki’s new JV400LX Series of wide-format latex printers brings you boundless printing freedom.

X I N N O VAT I V E Engineered with Mimaki’s Green Technology, the JV400LX Series utilizes the latest in latex ink formulation. A wider range of media choices are available now with the use of WHITE ink and lower operating temperatures.

ECONOMICAL The JV400LX only requires standard 110 volt electrical connections for operation. It saves you money due to lower power consumption and installation costs – great for your bottom line. Realize lower production costs with long lasting piezo print heads that output at a speedy 194 sq.ft/hr. X

X E C O - F R I E N D LY A better workplace environment is always a plus. With low VOC latex inks, these printers can operate anywhere. Another eco-plus are the convenient, reusable 600ml ink cartridges.















© 2013 Mimaki USA, Inc.


Making “Invisible Children”


Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania—Fresh Artists ( is a nonprofit organization that is not only making an effort to help save art classes in underfunded, underprivileged K-12 public schools but also “freshening” up the walls of corporations and businesses while doing so. According to Founder/President Barbara Chandler Allen, Fresh Artists has three missions: (1.) To create opportunities for underprivileged children in under-resourced schools to be philanthropists, helping other children; (2.) to exhibit K-12 children’s artwork in highly visible, unexpected places so as to advocate for keeping a strong art program in public schools; and (3.) to personally deliver art supplies and innovative art programs directly to poor schools struggling with severe slashes in their budgets. Fresh Artists accepts corporate and individual contributions to fund its mission. As a thank-you, financial donors can choose large-scale, high-resolution, digital reproductions of the children’s art for display in their facilities. Fresh Artists invites the children to donate the use of their art with no expectation or receiving anything in return. Children and their guardians sign licenses allowing Fresh Artists to use a digital image of the artwork. The original artwork is then photographed or scanned on an Epson 12-by-18-inch scanner and then returned to the child. 8

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

Commercial print provider Service Point which has created a network of "Fresh USA outputs the graphics onto instant-dry Artists" print providers and installers in the satin paper and mounts them via SGIA community to participate in the program, provide prints, and adhesives onto Gatorfoam®. work with corporations and Then Fresh Artists interns To read more community service and volunteers stand them details, organizations that support off the walls with short visit Fresh Artists’ goals. pieces of PVC pipe. www. In five years, Fresh Artists Fresh Artists has been signshop. has installed more than 1,032 thankful for the donations com. large format reproductions of provided by the sign industry. children’s art and donated the They use HP latex printers for some reproduction work and as a tool in value of $185,000 of art supplies to the their Print Studio teen internship program. poorest schools in Philadelphia. “Art The Biesse Group created signs for them out s u p p l i e s a re w o n d e r f u l , a n d t h e of expanded foam; Neschen donated a e m p o we r m e nt o f t h e c h i l d re n i s laminator; 3A Composites recently shipped astonishing,” says Allen, “[we want] to five cartons of Gatorfoam; ImageOne change the way [people] think about public Impact provided grommets; Testrite Visual education and to not turn their back on it.” For information or donations to Fresh Display donated display racks; and Ergosoft Artists, contact Barbara Chandler Allen at contributed RIP software. They have also partnered with SGIA, 215/920-3317 or

Passaic, New Jersey—Full-service commercial printer SignMasters creates retail signage for well known brands. As a one-stop shop, SignMasters manages projects from artwork to assembly. Al Raimondi, plant manager for SignMasters, says they are receiving more and more requests for opaque signs to block light sources. In the past, Raimondi says it was difficult to achieve opacity in a thin-paper format – earlier options included opaque styrene, but it was a thick material. So SignMasters recently turned to Opacity II from Lamitech (www., a fully integrated paperboard manufacturing company based in Cranbury, New Jersey. Opacity II features a charcoal center, and its standard clay coating works well for double-sided printing. The product is available in calipers of .0085 or .011 and works with offset lithography, large format digital, and conventional silk screen. The lightweight, flexible paper also saves on shipping. “In the past, a 60-inch sign, for example, would have to ship flat, which meant more packaging; the flexibility to roll just wasn’t there,” says Raimondi. “So there are significant cost savings if you can roll material and use smaller packaging (tubes).” —Maria Fotopoulos

photo courtesy of lamitech.

all photos courtesy of fresh artists.

Opaque Solution

January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Dispatches +

Boston, Massachusetts—Semper International (, a leading placement firm for skilled help in the graphic arts and printing industry, announces its Print Industry Insight survey of printing companies has seen an industry sales increase during the last half of the third quarter of 2012. “June and July are typically slow months in the industry. This year was no exception,” notes Dave Regan, CEO Semper International. “This year, sales were slow through mid-August. Sales didn’t pick up until the Fed announced its third round of quantitative easing in midSeptember. Sales are back on track now, and we expect a solid quarter.” The most recent survey indicates mixed business trends: + 72 percent of companies reported a profitable Q3; + 25 percent of companies expect sales to decrease through the remainder of Q4, 2012; + The greatest competitive threat to printers remains the current economy (56 percent), growing pressures from lower cost competitors (27 percent), and operating costs (15 percent); and + Print buyers place the greatest pricing pressure on ink to substrate printing (47 percent).


photos courtesy of diversified sign and graphics.

Industry Survey

Diversified Signs & Graphics:

New OwNerShIp York, South Carolina—Michael and Debbie Wilson, owners of Diversified Sign and Graphics, have announced the acquisition of the company by Marcus Higgins and John Elvington. Diversified Signs, a full-service wholesale architectural sign company offering consultation, design, fabrication, and installation throughout the Southeast, specializes in quick-turn manufacturing and has one of the most expansive lists of fabrication equipment in the country, allowing production of virtually any variation of custom signage. “I have been working in the signage industry for more than thirty years, and I see in Marcus and John, quite a few of the same traits Diversified has practiced since its founding in 1999,” says Michael Wilson. “Their relationships with sign resellers will help us make a lasting impression in our industry and set us on a path toward greater growth.” (Note: Wilson will remain with Diversified and oversee the company’s fabrication and installation departments.) Experienced signage professionals themselves, Higgins and Elvington made

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013





the decision to acquire Diversified Signs not only because of the strong manufacturing foundation and capabilities but also because of the dedication and experience of the existing staff. Together the two have nearly a quarter-century of work growing other signage businesses. The pair recognized the opportunity to take Diversified’s local wholesaling business to a regional level and offer a differencemaking advantage in the industry. “In Diversified Signs, we see an opportunity to grow the business by offering sign companies a partner that will fabricate and install signage for custom projects with tight lead-times,” said Higgins. “No matter how demanding the project, we’re continuing to work three shifts to have the excess capacity to meet the needs of our customers.” Diversified recently invested in a new sales and interior sign manufacturing office in Charlotte, North Carolina, and an expansion in South Carolina to add thermoforming capabilities. To learn more about DSG and its product and service offerings, visit





SignSHOW AWArds & impri nti ng New Awards from LaserBits® Aim to “Impress” LaserBits®, a leader in laser engravable products and training, offers the Beveled Impress awards. Available in rich and elegant classic looks, these awards feature one-inch-thick cast acrylic. A black base with blue or gold accents reflects into the beveled edges of the award. The awards come in three designs—Beveled, Diamond and Frosted—and each design is available in three sizes each. No acrylic glue or special adhesives are required to assemble the product. Instead special anaerobic adhesives are used on the award top, which makes the assembly process a simple peel-and-stick method..

AW n i n g s & V i n Y L - COAt E d FA B r i C s Aurora Specialty Textiles Group Expands its DECOPRINT Line Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc., announces the addition of Silver with adhesive, Diamond with adhesive, and Acquasun to its offering of DECOPRINT® fabrics from DHJ International. Silver with adhesive offers a silvery metallic appearance, while Diamond with adhesive boasts a radiant, “diamond-esque” look. Both materials have an acrylic coating as well as a removable adhesive (which makes them ideal for wall graphics). The materials are available in 59-inchby-82-foot rolls and are compatible with latex, solvent, and UV-cure digital printing. Acquasun is the new standard for direct printing with water-based dye-sublimation printers. Ideal for backlit displays, Acquasun is pinhole-free and features a built-in light diffuser for even light distribution. This material is available in 122-inch-by-165-foot rolls. 800/864-0303;

Fisher Textiles Updates and Adds Styles to Direct Disperse Fabric Line Fisher Textiles has added style DD 7866 Vistatex (FR) and updated styles DD 7817 Soft Knit (FR) and DD 7880 Heavy Knit (FR) to its digital printable fabric line for direct dye-sublimation printing.These fabrics have a special coating that allow for direct printing onto the fabric, do not require heat transfer paper, and are available in widths of 122 inches. All the materials also pass NFPA 701 and Title 19. They are compatible with printers using dispersed inks. DD 7866 Vistatex (FR) is 6.6 oz/yd2 and is ideal for tradeshow exhibits, retail advertising, and applications that use aluminum framing. Meanwhile DD 7817 Soft Knit (FR) is 5.9 oz/yd2 and is ideal for P-O-P/banners, pop-up booths, and tradeshow exhibits, while DD 7880 Heavy Knit (FR) is 9.0 oz/yd2 and is ideal for pop-up booths and tradeshow exhibits. 800/554-8886;

d i g i tA L p r i n t i n g E Q U i pm E n t/ s U p p L i E s New from Mimaki: The Revolutionary JV400SUV Solvent UV Printer Mimaki introduces its 64-inch JV400SUV Solvent UV roll-feed wide format printers. These printers offer high-quality glossy images with wide PVC media compatibility, as well as exceptional abrasion resistance. The JV400-130/160SUV feature a standard print speed of 118 square feet per hour and can laminate immediately after curing the inks with a UV curing lamp that features a three-way heater (pre, print, and post). These solvent UV printers feature Mimaki’s Uninterrupted Ink Supply System, as well as long-lasting piezo printheads that provide color consistency during the entire printhead life. Raster Link 6 RIP software is bundled with the printers, as well.

NanoGraphic Inks® Print on Virtually Everything NanoGraphic Inks® has developed an innovative digital UV printing system that owes its advantages largely to the use of nano-sized pigments and additives to the ink and ultra-bright UV LEDs based on gallium nitride heterostructures in the printers. Printers produced using this technology can apply images not only to advertising and printing products but also to furniture, tile, glass, appliances and electronics, stretch ceilings, panels, and other surfaces. Sun Americas® printers combine high productivity with low operational costs, which significantly reduces the cost of the printed product. NanoGraphic Inks come in eight colors and offer a high resistance to light, exact color reproduction, and long shelf life—important for UV curable ink. Eco Solvent Inks use the latest research to improve the quality in the outdoor advertising market. Meanwhile UV-LED Nano Inks are approved by the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare and feature ink that kills harmful bacteria, mold, and mildew. And ceramic inks allow the possibility of stable printing on rugged surfaces.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

LEd mOdULEs/tUBEs/strips Halco Shines Brighter with Its Expanded ProLED Line Halco Lighting Technologies® increases its offerings of PAR38 lamps in its ProLED product line by introducing a new range of color temperatures and beam spreads. Several SKUs of 16W and 20W ProLED PAR38 lamps have been added. Also all new lamps are now dimmable down to 5 percent—including two Energy Star®-approved SKUs that are rated at 25,000 hours (16W PAR38 with Flood beam spread in 3000K and 20W PAR38 with Flood beam spread in 3000K). The broad assortment includes Flood, Narrow Flood, and Spot beam spreads and are available in 2700K, 3000K, 4000K, and 5000K color temperature options. Designed to replace 90W equivalents, these lamps produce 82 CRI and are backed with a five-year limited warranty.

Eco-Friendly, CFL-Replacing LED Lamps Offer Energy Reduction up to 70 Percent LEDtronics®, Inc., has announced a family of CFL-style, right-angle-illumination LED lamps with dual- or quadpin GX23, G24Q, and G24D bases. The LEDGX23D, LEDG24Q, and LEDG24D series is available in any combination of 5 or 7 watts; two popular voltage ranges of 120-to-240VAC and 240-to-277VAC; white colors 2800K “Halogen” White, 3200K Warm White, or 4100K Natural White; different base styles, and different configurations and numbers of pins. Offering greater longevity and shock resistance than compact fluorescent lamps, the LEDtronics series of LED lamps replace CFLs in all directional lighting applications (lanterns beaming light away from the wall; wall sconces beaming light in one primary direction; ceiling lights beaming 90° down; uplights beaming skyward, and ambient; accent or artwork lighting in showrooms, galleries, labs, utility rooms; etc.). They provide illumination at a wide viewing angle of 110 degrees. LED lamps are available in configurations that consume only 5 watts and replace CFLs up to 13 watts or use 7 watts and replace CFLs up to 23 watts (effectively reducing energy consumption by up to 70 percent).

Create Vivid Lighting with MaxLite’s LED Signage Panels MaxLite’s LED Signage Panels create vivid lighting for advertising graphics with LGP diffuser technology that eliminates unsightly dark spots. A perfect lighting design for a wide variety of retailers, hotels, restaurants, and other types of businesses, the panels are constructed of heavy-duty snap springs with high-quality aluminum frames. The LED Signage Panels showcase artwork on one or two sides and can be swapped out in seconds. With a long commercial life of 100,000 hours (more than 22 years operating 12 hours per day), MaxLite’s LED Signage Panels use just 10 to 42 watts to illuminate 16-by-20-inch to 38-by-48-inch signs with high-quality Edge Lit lighting design. These panels are ideal for promoting in-store brands, sales, and special events, as well as other important news for consumers. 973/244-7300;

rOUtErs/Engr AVErs Get Increased Flexibility with Esko’s Kongsberg XN Finishing Table Capable of handling a broad range of materials, the new Kongsberg XN finishing table from Esko is ideal for a number of applications, including packaging. Four tool heads and an assortment of insert tools offer versatility, and newly developed tools include a solid board v-notching insert and a Braille tool insert. The Kongsberg XN can also be equipped with a powerful milling spindle called the MultiCUT-HP, which offers up to three times more milling productivity. On even the most challenging materials, it keeps a productive, consistent speed. The Kongsberg XN finishing table is available in sizes ranging from 66-by-50 inches up to 87-by-258 inches.

s O F t WA r E - p r i n t/C U t/ r i p/ r O U t E / E n g r AV E / E st i m At i n g Increase Growth and Profitability with Fiery® Workflow Suite EFI™ introduces Fiery® Workflow Suite, a comprehensive set of integrated products that delivers a unique, fully integrated workflow from job submission and business management to scheduling, preparation, and production for a new level of productivity. Fiery Workflow Suite includes three key, new applications: Fiery JobFlow, Fiery JobMaster, and Fiery Central. These new applications work together to increase print production efficiency with integrated and automated workflows, maximize print engine capacity and capability, process more jobs in less time, and help print service providers offer new higher-profit, value-added services. Fiery Workflow Suite products are designed to integrate seamlessly with EFI’s industry-leading Fiery digital front end, as well as EFI’s Web-to-Print and Print MIS systems. 800/875-7117;

January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


SignSHOW New CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite X6 Functionality Available Exclusively to CorelDRAW Members Corel has announced the availability of the CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite X6.2 update for CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 customers. For users with a free Standard Membership, X6.2 provides the latest performance and stability improvements. For users with a Premium Membership, X6.2 adds a variety of new functionality—including a new alignment and dynamic guides docker, enhancements to the color styles docker, and a new Corel® PHOTO-PAINT™ guidelines docker. Plus X6.2 equips CorelDRAW Premium Members with six new color harmony rules and more preview options that further simplify the design process. With X6.2, Premium Members will also get immediate access to a number of new time-saving features that won't become available for non-Premium Members until the next major version of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is launched. To become a Standard or Premium Member, users must create a Corel account within CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6. Membership options are available to box and electronic download customers of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 at this time.

Roland VersaWorks® 4.8 RIP Software Features New Built-in PANTONE® Libraries Roland DGA Corp., has released VersaWorks Version 4.8, a full-featured, easy-to-use RIP software package developed exclusively for the company’s wide format inkjet printers and printer/cutters. With this new version of VersaWorks, Roland has added a total of six libraries from the PANTONE PLUS and Goe™ product lines. These libraries allow users to automatically convert a specific PANTONE spot color in the design file to a CMYK value that can be reproduced on a Roland inkjet device. This simplified workflow significantly reduces the amount of time required for color matching and enables quick output of specific colors when working with properly profiled media. Roland’s latest version of VersaWorks also features a new spot color replacement feature that allows users to automatically replace a defined spot color in the design file with another from any VersaWorks library (all without reopening the source file). Users can also replace the spot colors in their designs with white and clear ink options supported by several Roland inkjets. In addition to shipping with all-new models, VersaWorks 4.8 is available to existing Roland inkjet customers free of charge through an Internet connection using the Roland@NET service.

Sheet Metal Grommets with Plain, Teeth and Neck Washers Rolled Rim Grommets with Spur Washers

ISO 9001 Certified RoHs

Self-Piercing Grommets and Washers Oblong Grommets and Washers


Stimpson grommets and washers are made in the U.S.A., meet the latest government and commerical specifications, and are supported by a full line of grommeting machines. Stimpson grommets and washers are made from bass, aluminum and zinc, and are available in base metal or with popular finishes such as nickel or dull black chemical. Many sizes available in stainless steel. 1515 SW 13th Court, Pompano Beach, FL 33069 • 877.765.0748 • 954.946.3500 • Fax: 954.545.7440 •


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

VEHICLE GRAPHICS Three New MACmark® Tuning Wrap Films Expand Your Possibilities MACtac® Graphic Products announces the addition of new wrapping categories to its MACmark® Tuning Films: MACmark Tuning Film Sublime, MACmark Tuning Film Brushed Metals, and MACmark Tuning Film Special Effects. MACtac MACmark Tuning Film Sublime is a 3.4-mil pigmented air-egress vinyl available in fifteen gloss and fifteen matte colors designed for vehicle color change and custom color accents. With a durability of seven to eight years, it is quick and easy to install, has excellent conformability, and offers good scratch and stain resistance. MACtac MACmark Tuning Film Brushed Metals are a 5.5-mil embossed air-egress vinyl available in five color finishes. It offers moderate conformability and a durability of five years. MACtac MACmark Tuning Film Special Effects sport three 3.9-mil iridescent color films designed for full vehicle wrapping and two embossed 8.6-mil textured films for vehicle accents and custom effects. 866/622-8223;

VINYL/VINYL FILMS/SUPPLIES Add Graphics to Under-the-water Surfaces with Ultraflex’s AquaFlex Media Dive into vinyl graphics with AquaFlex, a media designed by UltraFlex for underwater branding and advertising for pools, ponds, fountains, and various water features and aquascapes. The media introduces a whole new “surface” or “sub-surface” to print graphics and branding messages on, which gives advertisers a unique and eye-catching location to place their message. No adhesive is required—installers simply place the printed, laminated decal into the water and push it to the bottom by hand or with a pool tool. AquaFlex is recyclable, and its blue backside is made from recycled post-industrial pool liner. The media comes on 63-inch wide-by-75-foot long rolls and is compatible with solvent, latex, and UV inks. 973/627-8608;

Tri-Mod LED Backlighting Panels • A great way to backlight your graphics, posters and promotional messages • Evenly illuminates without any hot spots • Just 1/16” thick • Less than 1” of installation depth required • Panels are pre-wired and simply clip together



Greatest Variety of

Standoffs for Signage & Display

Barrel Lengths from 1/2” – 6” Diameters from 1/2” – 1-1/2”

Go to 2012 Web Pages 96-102


1” Diameter Barrel Unbeatable Part #


STDE-3224- * 3/4” STDE-3232- * 1” STDE-3248- * 1-1/2” STDE-3264- * 2” STDE-3296- * 3” STDE-32128- * 4” STDE-32192- * 6”


$1.60 ea. $2.02 ea. $2.22 ea. $2.42 ea. $2.92 ea. $3.33 ea. $4.00 ea.

Lowest Prices... Widest Selection... All From Stock! Serving the Industry Since 1972 FrEE 1,000 Page catalog!

• 6 panel sizes enable endless configurations • Dimmable • Energy efficient • virtually shatterproof fiberglass construction • Rated for 50,000 hours usage with minimal to no light degradation

Go to 2012 Web Pages 479-481

Best Prices in the Industry! Finishes Available: Polished Chrome Brushed Stainless Satin Copper matt Chrome Polished Chrome Black Nickel Satin Stainless Brushed Brass INQUIRE, AS FINIShES vARy * PLEASE FROm STyLE TO STyLE

PrEMIUM STEEL SErIES P SEr S rIES f Tamper Proo 3/4” Diameter Barrel Part # Length Price STD-24243/4” $6.55 ea. STD-2432- * 1” $6.85 ea. STD-2448- * 1-1/2” $7.60 ea. STD-24128-** 4” $10.25 ea.

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January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Jeff Wooten


Attracted to Magnets? three questions

Why should sign shops be “attracted” to flexible magnets?


y now, sign makers should be well aware of the many different applications in which flexible magnet sheeting (or magnetic-receptive materials) can be used—vehicle graphics, pointof-purchase set-ups, display decoration, etc. And the reason for their popularity? “Not only are magnetic signs durable, but they’re easily interchangeable,” says Nicole Sheridan, marketing manager for Magnum Magnetics ( “Multiple graphics can be easily added and removed from magnetic signs, adding versatility to the sign.” From an installation viewpoint though, there might be a perception that this medium’s properties might be more “attractive” for the end-user than the professional sign maker. For example, in retail P-O-P, employees can easily change-out magnetic graphics themselves rather than opting for a professional installation. And if a magnetic sign is being used on a personal vehicle for commercial use, the owner simply can remove it when necessary. So let’s take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about flexible magnets.

#1. Let’s “stick” to the facts! What are the biggest advantages for offering flexible magnets in signage projects?

Photo courtesy of Master Magnetics.

According to Melissa Thompson, sales manager, Flexible Magnetic Products, at Master Magnetics, Inc. (, the number-one selling point is that you can easily and quickly remove or put back up flexible magnetic sheeting when necessary. This saves a shop time and effort (compared to removing vinyl). And since the magnet portion of a sign is permanently magnetized, it can be used over and over again. “A sign shop can therefore print a new graphic for the client and adhere it to the older magnetic sign,” she explains.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

The ideal customers for using flexible magnets in their signage are those who frequently change out their content or graphics. For example, a restaurant would be attracted to using magnetic properties to update their menu board pricing or specials.

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Offering unique items like magnets can also give you an edge over your competitor down the street who doesn’t offer them.

There are magnetic media products available for almost every kind of printer and for every type of application, so for sign shops and graphics providers that have been farming out magnet jobs, they can now keep them in-house. “With direct-printable magnetic sheeting, it’s easy to create high-quality magnetic signs that are able to withstand indoor as well as harsh outdoor environments,” says John De Leon, director of Sales and Marketing for Arnold Magnetic Technologies ( “Coupled with magnetic-receptive sheeting or paint, magnetic signs and banners can be used about anywhere.” Daniel Halkyard, director of marketing & product placement for Visual Magnetics (, who notes that they refer to their Visual Magnetics Graphic System® as “Magnetic Receptive Graphics,” finds that the best customers to target are those who like to change their imagery or signage frequently. “This ease of change-out translates into cost savings that many customers have used to create more change-outs and still be able to stay within their budget,” he says.

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Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

#2. How can you incorporate magnets into other projects that your customers might not have thought about? De Leon states that it’s a great advantage for sign shops to understand these products. “Magnetic-receptive sheeting is widely used as a base for attaching magnetic signs. This allows for easy removal and replacement of the sign with a new one,” he says. “Magnetic-receptive paint is available fo covering whole walls, which allows the easy placement of magnetic signs.” Halkyard mentions that, after painting wall surfaces with their latex-based Active Wall™ primer with micro-iron particles, their magnetic-receptive graphics can be layered with promotional information placed on overlays that can be moved around, added to, or easily removed in point-of-sale signage, posters, murals, and wall coverings, to name a few. Meanwhile Sheridan points out that their magnetic-receptive RubberSteel® material can be utilized for display purposes when a ferrous/metallic surface is not available, “such as point-of-purchase and menu boards.”

Thompson adds that there are “quite diverse sales and production opportunities” outside the norm: Bumper stickers, business cards, sidewalk “specials” board, calendars, sports team schedules, etc

#3. How can sign shops remain involved with customers in magnet graphics installation? Sheridan says that projects utilizing magnetic-receptive materials are definitely a two-way street—a partnership between both the end-user and the sign shop. For instance, a sign maker should be brought in to ensure that the correct products are used in the application. “Before quoting or printing a sign job for them, discuss with them exposure to the elements, temperature considerations, the strength of the magnet needed, weight limits, etc.,” she advises. The Visual Magnetics Graphic System requires the use of unprinted flexible roll or sheet magnet that remains in place, while the graphics that lie on top of the magnet are changed out. The moreexpensive magnet sheet is not thrown away when graphic changes are desired,

meaning it can be reused indefinitely. So if it’s this easy for the end-user to change-out the magnet graphics themselves, how can a sign maker still remain active here? “This is a good opportunity for you if a large wall space requires preparation,” says Halkyard. “Painting primer on walls and mounting magnets are jobs that not all customers want to do themselves, even if they plan to change out the graphics themselves.” Thompson adds, “A sign shop can also help to design and construct a customized frame or P-O-P display that would be used as the permanent fixture for the self-changeable magnetic sheeting graphics.” It’s also important to educate your customers in the proper installation techniques and maintenance of the magnetic signs that they provide. “Doing so will go a long way in building up your relationship with them,” says Thompson. And to learn about misconceptions about magnets and magnet-receptive materials, please turn to this month’s “UpFront” column on page 6.

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January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Peter Perszyk


Give it

some Glass

Glass can add class to many sign projects.


t an early age in my long and illustrious sign career, I began reading about sign faces that were actually created with glass. The UL 48 code even made mention of this (citing its “great insulating properties”). However this logic was not so clear to me. After all, wasn’t acrylic lighter? Wasn’t polycarbonate less breakable? But then again, glass was always much clearer, and compared to plastics, it just had class.

Make it with Glass A gentleman hailing from a former Eastern Bloc country once filled me in on the choice of glass for sign faces. He told me that it was “flat,” “rigid,” and “low-tech.” In countries that had glass production for windows, they also had the ability to make glass sign faces. If you already worked

with glass, then it was easy to use it for sign faces (which he did). The assumption has always been that the oldstyle glass face would just slide into a frame, and the finished sign may not have shown much difference between glass and plastic. However architecture has worked with, utilized, and even pushed the limits of glass use in recent years (Photo 1). Glass is no longer just in the “windows,” and today, windows no longer have to look mundane. In fact, glass has become an integral element to the design (Photo 2). When it comes to modern sign design, one advantage of using glass is in its thickness, which acts as a visual enhancement. For instance, glass thickness equates to a strength greater than that of plastic sheets (Photo 3). And whereas a sheet of plastic more than likely will need a frame to act as a retainer, glass holds



Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013




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Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013


its shape on its own (Photo 4). Finally while a sheet of plastic weathers out in the environment, glass will hold its clarity (Photo 5). The glass industry has also developed a variety of fittings and methods that help make this substrate work. It now can appear elegant, yet simple. And sometimes the end result appears impossible, and you find yourself wondering just how did someone do that with glass (Photo 6)? There is definitely a higher cost associated with the use of glass though (parallel to the neon versus fluorescent comparisons), however this higher cost is often a function of the fabrication technique and the handling that is needed when using glass.

it is the look of Glass Have you heard of a color called “Coke Bottle Green?”You can thank glass for it. While glass appears clear when viewed straight-on or in thinner sheets, it features iron oxide impurities that lend this

greenish color to thicker sections (Photo 7). This Coke Bottle Green color is very organic for design—almost like the red of a brick or the brown of a wood. Often this “flawed” color is what ends up adding the “class” factor to a building or to a glass sign (Photo 8).

it is the look of Class Designing in conjunction with the architecture holds another key to the use of glass in signage. Check out the kiosk for the Grand Hyatt in Photo 9. It has CNC-routed letters identifying the tenants applied to its outside. A closer view of this sign shows that the wet-gloss appearance of the glass is a contrast to the semi-gloss of the copy and the satin of the extruded frame (Photo 10). The visual depth suggests another cue to class. Like water in a clear lake, glass allows for an ocular perspective that cannot be found with sign plastics. At night, the green of the glass fades with the setting sun, but this design comes alive with

11 internal illumination of changing colors (Photo 11). Now that you have seen the possibilities of using glass in architecture and signage, do not dismiss it as something just intended for windows.

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January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Step Beyond



f elegance and class go hand in hand, then glass should be your

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Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

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SPECIAL  •  Dimensional / By Jeff Wooten ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////


dimensional signs

An in-depth look at sign shops working on dimensional signage.

Photos courtesy of ArtcAM/the GrAin siGn coMPAny.


elcome to our special section this month devoted to the artistry, techniques, tools, and materials that sign shops across the country are using to create dimensional signage. Dimensional signage encompasses a lot of different styles—identity, channel letters, architectural, wayfinding, postand-panels, monuments, pylons, pointof-purchase displays, etc. This medium also involves just as much variety when it comes to equipment used in its production— everything from traditional handcarving tools to today’s CNC routers, engravers, and waterjet cutters (to name a few). Over the next several pages, you’ll find articles and case studies related to dimensional signage (design, fabrication, installation, etc.)—and hopefully you can even learn a few things that can add to your profits in this field. First up, in our “News & Notes” section, we’re posting information about some of the latest products and announcements related to dimensional sign-making. Then you’ll find several in-depth articles showcasing how some sign makers and shops are using CAD software to design custom and mass-produced dimensional signs, as well 

as how they’re employing CNC routers, scanners, and laser engravers to shape and form creative, efficient, and effective 3-D signs. We’re going to be profiling the steps one sign company takes to ensure a successful installation, the collaboration between multiple parties to produce a custom identity monument, and the planning involved in incorporating 3-D into wayfinding programs. We’ll also check out how one shop treats dimensional signs as their own personal works of art. (Note: A twelve-foot-tall squirrel is even involved.) Enjoy! January 2013 // sBi Dimensional 


SPECIAL • DImenSIonal / news & notes /////////////////////

Products, news, and announcements related to dimensional sign-making.

Gemini’s Fabricated Channel Letters are Now Fully UL Listed Gemini’s Fabricated Stainless Steel Letters have been a popular choice with sign designers for many years—and their future looks brighter than ever now that they are available as a ready-to-install product with a full UL Listing. This announcement means that Gemini Fabricated Stainless Steel letters come complete with wiring diagrams, installation instructions, and a UL label attesting to their Fully UL Listed status—so not only do sign companies have an ironclad assurance that these products meet all UL specifications, but it will also translate to lower installation costs. Gemini Stainless Steel Fabricated Letters are perfect architectural letters for retail or other areas where high-end quality fabrication is an absolute must. (800/538-8377;

New ArtCAM Pro Makes Complex Artistic Designs More Natural The newest release of Delcam’s ArtCAM Pro CAD/CAM software has made it much easier to create complex designs, especially those that include repeated elements that are similar but not identical within the design (such as feathers in a model of a bird or trees in a forest). ArtCAM Pro is aimed at skilled artisans (rather than engineers) and allows them to deliver new designs more quickly by combining their craft skills and creativity with the power and precision of computer-aided manufacturing. The main addition in this latest release is “Free Relief Modelling,” which allows previously created reliefs to be selected and then moved, rotated, rescaled, and copied (either individually or as part of a group). Any part of the design can be isolated, edited, and then recombined into a group for duplication or further editing within the group. (


SBI Dimensional //  January 2013

The Gravotech Group: New Organization The Gravotech Group has restructured to better meet the needs and requirements of its clientele and is now divided into four distinct brands: Gravograph, Technifor, Propen, and Type3. Gravotech is working with the world’s largest corporations, whose needs range from engraving to traceability. The new Gravotech Group can meet all their marking needs, make them more profitable, and give them a competitive edge. The Gravotech Group offers real consistency—especially for software and firmware—which allows customers to switch from one marking technology to another while preserving their manufacturing data. (

Outwater Introduces its Stainless Steel Woven Wire Cloth Outwater Plastics Industries, Inc. + Architectural Products offers a new angle on the shape of things to come with its Stainless Steel Woven Wire Cloth, an easy-to-use flexible medium that allows professionals to produce all types of circular and undulating curves needed to create unconventional and unusually shaped room dividers, infill panels, signage, and other types of interior and exterior applications that require a radius. Outwater’s Stainless Steel Woven Wire Cloth is sold in thee-by-four-foot sheets, is manufactured from 304-grade stainless steel that can be used indoors and outdoors, is lightweight, and is easily trimmable. (

New UltraGrave™ Multi-functional Engraving Sheets UltraGrave™ interior- and exterior-grade 2-ply sheets from Rowmark offer sign makers ultra creativity, customization, and durability. The UltraGrave™ color palette has been created based on customer demand and trending colors. With thirtyeight color combinations and the ability to custom color match, the UltraGrave laminate collection helps fabricators and designers meet customer demands with a competitive edge. UltraGrave is engineered with a durable .003-inch UV stable polymer cap offered in a variety of vibrant colors, laminated over a tough acrylic core. UltraGrave™ is produced in 24-by-48-inch sheets and is both laser and rotary engravable. (

New HD Mini Series CNC Router Techno, Inc. CNC Routers has introduced the HD Mini Series CNC Router, a new, heavy-duty precision-cutting system that is an affordable CNC work platform. Ideal for any-size shop requiring a compact machine to run small routing jobs or to be used as an educational tool, the HD-Mini features ball screw drives on all three axes and is controlled using a Techno easy-to-use, hand-held micro stepper controller. The controller can run G-Code or DFX file formats. Techno’s HD Mini CNC Router also features brushless micro-stepper motors and controls and a 2 HP HSD high-frequency collet spindle. Techno continues its industryleading developments and promises to deliver superior quality equipment at affordable prices, as always keeping true to their motto—“Small Investment, Big Return.” (800/819-3366;

Small Footprint with Full Capabilities in 1624R CNC Router/Engraver Vision Engraving & Routing Systems introduces the 1624R CNC Router/Engraver. It is the perfect blend of size and functionality in a small footprint. The 1624R is ideal for light to heavyduty applications—including notary seals, tool and die work, ADA/Braille signage, parts marking, plastic engraving, and more—in a 16-by-24-inchwork area, 33-by-33-inch desktop system. The 1624R has the unique ability to utilize multiple spindles, which have been tailored to meet customer’s needs. Other router options include: 1/4 HP Floating Engraver Spindle that will cut up to 1/4-inch plastic per single pass; 3 HP Direct Drive Router Spindle that will cut up to 1/4-inch aluminum per single pass; Automatic Braille Inserter; and more. (888/637-1737;

Learn How to Paint NovAcryl® Photopolymer Signs A new training video that simplifies understanding how to paint the NovAcryl® substrate (used for ADA Braille and accessible room ID signage) is now available from Nova Polymers. Painting photopolymer signs significantly expands the selection of colors and finishes available for sign fabricators and designers, and a clear topcoat is required on all photopolymer signs that are decorated subsurface with paint, digital graphics, or patterns in the base substrate. The full-length video, produced at Matthews Paint Company, covers the following subjects: (1.) safety issues related to painting; (2.) proper mixing techniques; (3.) an overview of the paint gun; (4.) how to use a wet film gauge; and (5.) proper spraying techniques. (888/484-6682; January 2013 // SBI Dimensional


SPECIAL  •  Dimensional / By Lori Shridhare  /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

the structure of

Dimensional  signs


sBi Dimensional //  January 2013

all photos courtesy of wingfield sign & graphics.


ne company that illustrates how important it is to get the nuts and bolts down in dimensional signage is Wingfield Sign & Graphics ( in ( North Richland Hills, Texas. Founded in 2004 by Lance Wingfield, the company was later purchased by current owner Paul Yoshiura in 2006. In addition to working on a wide range of signage products, Wingfield has been making dimensional letters since they opened. Currently the company works with a single four-by-eight-foot CNC router, and the most common materials they use for jobs include acrylic, aluminum, HDU, and PVC. To ensure the success of each dimensional sign project, Yoshiura always surveys the location of the new sign prior to beginning the design process. Certainly outlining these basic steps can make the difference between a smooth job and a catastrophe. “The survey includes taking measurements of the space available for the sign, understanding what kind of material the wall/substrate is made of (i.e., brick, sheetrock, concrete, wood, etc.), taking pictures of the wall (so your proposal will include a rendering of the sign—your ‘main


selling point’), and finding out the color of the wall (so you won’t design a black sign for a black wall),” says Yoshiura. Of course, familiarity with local sign codes is a must, and this is made all the more easier now that municipalities post their signage regulations on their Web sites. “It’s important to know these regulations, so your design will be within the maximum allowed area and won’t [employ] prohibited materials,” says Yoshiura. “While the customer can provide that information via email, you should visit the site to make sure you won’t run into unexpected issues on the installation day. “If there’s a problem, most likely the sign company will end up taking the blame for not doing their homework.” Working on a recent interior sign project highlighted some of the issues that might arise during this work. Texas-based engineering and surveyng firm Gorrondona & Associates requested that Wingfield Sign create a reception wall sign for them utilizing their existing logo. The sign was to be mounted onto a 17-foot-long-by-10foot-tall sheetrock wall. “[They] requested that the highest point of the sign sit at about six feet and 

January 2013 // sBi Dimensional 


How to be ready when Hollywood calls?

SPECIAL • Dimensional

Work really hard, and use a ShopBot. Melissa Jones from Minnesota, a mother of two, has been diligently building her one-woman sign business for about 5 years. She got a ShopBot CNC router in 2008 to expand her production capability, and that’s when the call came from Sony Pictures to make specialized props for “The Green Hornet.” And business has been going well ever since. ShopBot offers powerful, precise and affordable digital fabrication tools. So give us a call and let’s see how we can help your business dreams come true.

See Melissa’s and other ShopBotter stories at



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SBI Dimensional //  January 2013


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that we use the same paints (green and tan colors) that were used for some of the interior walls and trims.,” says Yoshiura. “Also they wanted the sign to ‘pop’ and the letters individually mounted onto the wall instead of onto a substrate. “After completing a site survey, we confirmed the sizes of the wall and took a couple of pictures for future reference.” Since the customer requested that their logo not be too “overwhelming,” Wingfield sized the sign at about eightyeight inches in total length. Yoshiura selected 1/2-inch-thick acrylic letters painted green for the business name and a 1/4-inch-thick acrylic green base for the logo. “The logo design consisted of three different layers—the main base (green), the spokes (tan), and the letters ‘G & A’ (green/tan)—sitting on top of the circle (white),” says Yoshiura. “These days, acrylic is one of our preferred materials. It’s relatively light, durable, and can take paint well.” Wingfield cut out these components using the CNC router. “One of the most important things to consider during the cutting process is to make sure to use the right router bit,” says Yoshiura. “For example, if you choose a large bit size to cut small letters, most likely your dimensional letters will end up having round corners and won’t look good on an interior sign (considering that the viewing distance is about a foot from the sign).” To finish, the company sprayed the components of the sign with the paint type provided by the customer (a waterbased interior paint). Wingfield Sign used 3M™ VHB™ tape for the installation, since it works well with acrylic and is fairly light. “However if you’re going to be installing solid metal components or large-sized pieces of acrylic, I recommended stud-mounting the sign instead,” says Yoshiura, “as well as if the walls are heavily textured. “Some silicone can also be added to hold the letters, if desired.”

SPECIAL • DImenSIonal / By AdAm Brown ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////


vs. Custom-made H

all photos BY phIlIp DEsIERE

enry Ford’s mass production technique had a permanent and lasting effect on many different industries, including sign building. Mass-produced signs are everywhere in our community. In fact, it can be darn near impossible to tell the difference between a massproduced sign and one that was an individual design/ custom sign. Well going behind the scenes will help tell the difference. The Guinea Pig Factor Mass-produced signs are often “guinea pigs” when it comes to new technologies. They have been recognized

January 2013 // SBI Dimensional


SPECIAL • Dimensional

as good proving ground for new technologies such as power supplies. For example, years ago, the electronic ballast came out as a cheaper alternative and was promoted as having lower power consumption. It also required different, less restrictive codes. The industry elected to use the electronic ballast on a widespread basis but learned the hard way that they didn’t do well in cold climates. The industry then went back to using magnetic ballasts until the electronic ballast technology went through some improvements. Fortunately electronic ballasts are starting to get better in the cold.

It’s Like a Sculpture Consider a custom sign project as making a sculpture. They’re similar all the way through from design to production. But take a former production worker from the mass produced assembly line and he’d have problems in a one-off, custom-build sign environment. The reason? He’s not trained to build the entire product— only just a portion of the manufacturing process.


SBI Dimensional //  January 2013

In custom shops, you can give a fabricator a set of detailed drawings and he can evaluate, design, build, and problem solve the issues not everyone can pick up. Fabricators are the experts in the materials and methods used in the construction of signs. They have to know their materials—including the limits and constraints they have.

Longer Time Frame, Higher Satisfaction Every custom project entails a bigger investment in time and energy, but the outcome is a unique, one-of-a-kind sign. In mass production, you have a specified design and very specific processes to manufacture. Problem-solving is still required—but at a different level. It takes place mainly in the office with the engineers, designers, and/or production managers. With one-off custom signs, there seems to be more of everything all the way down the line: More drawings (modified and revised), more processes, more developed procedures, etc. It’s not cost-effective to predetermine all possible problems for one sign. They would cost far more than the market could

bear (more estimating time, more concept development, more fabrication steps, more wiring, etc.). In some cases, the project calls for collaborating with other trades like architects, building owners, project managers, electricians, and many others. The level of complexity is tied directly to the duration of the design process. This can elongate the process of coming up with a final design. It’s the [job of the custom shop] to be sure that duration fits within the specified schedule, not typically done in a mass production environment.

Impact on Customer Satisfaction At the end of a custom project, the response you get from most customers is, “That’s absolutely beautiful! You can drive around this whole area and not see another one like it.” The power of a custom-made sign is that it’s memorable. The customer loves how their vision is executed in the sign. It’s the key to their advertising, and it brings customers in. A d a m B row n i s p re s i d e n t o f S i g n E f fe c t z , I n c . ( in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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SPECIAL  •  Dimensional / By Ashley BrAy ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////




sBi Dimensional //  January 2013

all Photos courtesy of agile sign and lighting.


ustom dimensional work takes some additional time and effort, but it can set a company apart from the rest with a unique branding look that is anything but mass-produced. And this is the appearance American Roll Form (ARF) was seeking when it came to Agile Sign and Lighting (www.agilesignohio. com) in Eastlake, Ohio. ARF desired a monument sign that would create an iconic impression at its front entrance. This fullservice custom metal fabricator is no stranger to unique construction, and it wanted this sign to reflect its logo and base product line. The entire project took about a year, with most of that time spent waiting for ARF to carve out a space in its budget for the sign. Once Agile received the signed contract, the fabrication and installation only took three months.


ARF started by supplying Agile with its logo and asked the shop to build a design from it. Using CorelDRAW®, Agile drafted a design and sent it to Ron Beech, owner at FabTech LLC ( in Peninsula, Ohio, who finalized the design and handled the fabrication. FabTech specializes in custom sheet metal fabrication, welding, and forming, and it felt right at home on this job. “When the customers come [to us] with a project, we just fill in the blanks and make it out of something real instead of just a piece of paper,” says Beech. “We’re just modern-day blacksmiths.” FabTech took Agile’s design and fleshed it out by adding details and then incorporating it into CAD software. “They used the CAD program to pull out specific points of the design to create the template to actually do the cutting,” says Bruce Langguth, account representative at Agile. FabTech then sent the design to Agile for proofing. “Because you always have the artist’s interpretation, the fabricator’s point of view, and then the salesman’s ideas, you have to make sure that everybody’s still on the same page,” says Beech. “The big-

gest thing with me is just having a good line of communication. “No one wants to buy what they didn’t want, and it’s hard to sell what they don’t want.” The final approved design had an industrial look and feel to it. “We have a tendency to become a lot more industrial,” he says. “It happened to be on this project that they wanted those crisp lines, thickness of material, giant screw heads, and things like that. So it was a project that was really easy for us.” Not all of FabTech’s custom jobs are as easy—in fact, the nature of custom work can result in some complicated projects. But Beech stresses to never take on something that you can’t handle. “Always stay within your own technical abilities,” he says. “Don’t try to sell something you can’t do. “Learn where your limits are, stay with it, and make sure your customer understands that.” The sign letters and panels were fabricated from 5/8-inch aluminum to achieve an industrial appearance, but it was important that the sign was not too thick. “When you start making it too thick, it becomes too tempting for somebody to want

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SPECIAL • Dimensional

it for scrap value,” says Beech. “It’s a very expensive piece of aluminum that we have sitting up there.” Because of the material thickness and the precision needed, all of the pieces were cut out using a CNC water-jetting machine, which achieved the sharp, crisp corners and lines. It took FabTech about three hours to cut out all of the pieces (which included letters, a star, and the main sign panel). While all of the sign pieces were made out of aluminum and sent out to be anodized, different finishes were used on different sections. The letters feature a horizontally brushed finished, while the main panel has a mill finish. These two distinct finishes help to lend dimension and contrast to the sign. Portions of the sign that would be colored and placed be-

tween the main panel and an aluminum backing piece were cut out from 1/8-inch aluminum. They were then powder-coated and painted red, blue, and black. All of the pieces were fastened together using mechanical stainless steel screws. This enables individual parts to be removed and replaced (if needed). When the sign was completed and sent back to Agile for installation, it stood sixty-two inches tall and four feet wide. Agile called on its staff mason next to create a stone monument base for the sign. The mason dug and poured a 42-inch footer on site and built the 250-pound, four-foot-tall monument on top of it. He also created a recessed reveal in the monument for the aluminum sign panel. (Note: It took about a day


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SBI Dimensional //  January 2013

to build the monument base.) Agile then installed the sign panel. “When we had the sign manufactured, we got a template also, so we put that on the monument itself and prepared the holes,” says Langguth. “There are threaded studs that are holding it in that are epoxied in. We just had to make sure that we had good substrate behind it for the epoxy to bond to.” (Note: Agile drilled four holes for four studs to hold the sign in place.) It took two installers about four hours to lift the sign into place and secure it. Aside from the fabrication, there is another unique element about this sign—the solar panels. ARF also manufactures brackets for solar panel packages, and it wanted this to

be represented in the sign design, as well. “We could’ve put the solar panels behind the sign and they still would’ve gotten full sunlight, but [ARF] told us to put it up front where it can be seen,’” says Langguth. “So we placed it right next to the sign. It’s actually part of the whole package.” The solar panels illuminate an LED floodlight for up to seven days in cloudiness. Ameresco Solar specified and supplied most of the illumination package. Aside from the obvious green benefit, the solar panels also help ARF save some green. “We didn’t have to trench and run an [electrical] line all the way from the building,” says Langguth.. ARF was pleased with the final results and now has a unique, dimensional sign that identifies its brand.

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January 2013 // SBI Dimensional


SPECIAL • DImenSIonal / By Lori Shridhare ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Dimensional signs as


SBI Dimensional //  January 2013

new possibilities in the shape of signage, Austin, Texas-based Blue Genie Art ( is at the forefront. Founded in 1999 by Rory Skagen, Dana Younger, and current Principal Kevin Collins, this group of artists merged their respective small businesses to direct their talents into commercial work. With a collective portfolio encompassing murals, sculptures, and artistry, the group was uniquely positioned to venture into the field of custom sign design.

all photos courtesy of blue genie art.

When it comes to envisioning

C ne -4 lS aw Pa


The result: Their sign work avoids traditional can-types and employs more of a sculptural, whimsical aesthetic. What has made their work here possible is the equipment they use. “In our fifteen years in this business, both digital scanning and CNC milling have both radicalized our process,” says Collins. “We build many of our shapes out of HDU or EPS foam (and even woods and metals), paint them, and hard-coat them with a polyurethane.” For example, they crafted a twelve-foottall “roadside attraction” squirrel out of wood, foam, and steel for the Berdoll Pecan Farm in Cedar Creek, Texas (pictured, opposite page). “They’re using this piece not only as a photo op for visitors but also as a supplementary asset to their giant, on-premise LED sign,” says Collins. When social media management company HootSuite wanted to make a splash with an old CARTS airport shuttle bus at last year’s South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Blue Genie Art transformed it for them with a vinyl wrap and owl sculptures made out of foam and wood (above, left). “They used it to transport their street team and fire off t-shirts with a t-shirt cannon,” says Collins. Meanwhile Blue Genie Art used their four-axis router to create a “devilish” 3-D sign for Torchy’s Tacos restaurants (above, right). “We translated their 2-D logo by sculpting it first as a small maquette and then digitally scanning it and translating it into a CNC file,” says Collins. When clients approach Blue Genie Art, they’re usually prepared to ask for a custom,

one-of-a-kind showpiece but not necessarily imagining how dynamic the outcome will be. “Only about one out of a hundred clients beginning this process understand the power of what dimensional signage can provide over more-traditional signs,” says Collins, “To attract attention today, you have to make an immediate and lasting impression...and we do that.” The brains behind the company’s work are referred to as “fun-gineers.” This outside design team does test loads and makes appropriate recommendations for working with what Collins refers to as “oddball stuff.” He notes that there are occasions where dimensional work falls outside of typical permitting (but never compromising safety). In cases such as rooftop sculptures or other unique forms, the company designates the work as art rather than signage. “We’ll ask a lot of questions about the performance of the sign,” says Collins. “We also follow current trends in art and signage. This helps avoid the headache of something that’s simply not built to last.” Looking ahead to the equipment that promises to improve dimensional signmaking in the near future, Collins finds that his focus is on integration. “I’m really excited about the intersection of technologies—especially with CNC/laser-cutting/ rapid prototyping—and that these tools are becoming increasingly accessible to designers, architects, and even hobbyists,” he says. “This integration even makes it possible to upgrade static signage or the architectural character of buildings.”

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January 2013 // SBI Dimensional


SPECIAL • DImenSIonAl / By Lori Shridhare /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

dimensional signs as



SBI Dimensional //  January 2013

atlantic city boardwalk hall photos courtesy of cima network.


n artistic form of dimensional signage is wayfinding, which allows for creative potential, digital technology, and a sense of play incorporated into the environmental design. “We’re always thinking about our audience and what type of impact our dimensional signs will have on their overall experience while adhering to brand integrity,” says Ken Olschewske, director of wayfinding for Cima Network ( in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, whose sixteen years’ experience in planning and designing within the build environment continues to inform his work today.

SPECIAL • Dimensional

Cima Network works with a versatile array of materials for its dimensional signs—metal, stone, plastics, fabrics, glass, and wood. The company, founded in 2008 by Keith Denny and Bill Lockett, always has its eye on new technologies that enter the market. “We utilize digital displays, smartphone integration, and QR codes in some of our designs to give our audience the option of becoming an active participant or a passive viewer,” says Olschewske. “We try to leverage new and existing technologies, with our focus always on being economical, efficient, and eco-aware, all while delivering great quality products and

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solutions to our clients and their environments.” One example is a project Olschewske worked on for the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey that involved a range of professionals (architects, preservationists, sculptors, interior designers, and civic officials) who worked with their design team. The goal: To transform the building into a state-of-the-art entertainment arena for shows, sporting events, and concerts. “The idea was to create a concept that was sensitive to the Hall’s historic environment, while still providing a unique visitor experience,” says Olschewske. “We designed wayfinding, themed retail, and identity signage that incorporated icons, custom fasteners, and nautical shapes with lighting elements that were playful but appropriate.” Incorporating a blend of different

regal cinemas photos courtesy of cima network.

to capture the spirit of the brand & location.

acrylics, metals, paints, finishes, and lighting techniques was a high point of the endeavor—and one of its biggest challenges. “It was difficult to combine all of these elements together within a color palette that complemented the diverse historic colors and paintings throughout the hall’s architecture,” says Olschewske. “We needed to be sensitive to the architecture during installation. Olschewske cites this project as an example of how strong collaboration at every stage of the process is critical to the overall success. “We were dealing with historic integrity in some areas and new construction in others,” he says. With dimensional wayfinding projects such as this, Olschewske advises that it’s essential to utilize experienced fabricators and installers. “Even the most routine installations encounter problems, so having people in the field that are both knowledgeable and attentive to detail is critical,” he says. “Make sure your crew has a game plan before arriving on site: Know who is the point of contact, consider any site restrictions, prepare in advance for all local municipal codes, review accuracy of surveys, take before and after photos, and make certain the client sees what you see when you take these photos.” Cima Network also works closely with Regal Cinemas to create memorable destinations that are exciting for visitors. “Regal’s goal is to have each theater reflect the community where it is located,” says Olschewske. The Cima Network design team works with architects and Regal’s signage team and marketing professionals to achieve this goal. “Most people think creativity is just happening at the design stage, but we feel it should be considered at every stage of a project,” says Olschewske. “Encouraging your team to explore different approaches to common solutions allows for opportunities to utilize newer technologies, methods, or formulas. “Taking this stance lets us capture the spirit of both the brand and the destination in a coordinated way.”


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SPECIAL • DImenSIonal / By Jan Fletcher////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

adding depth to

Project T

ake one beautifully crafted dimensional sign destined for installation on a granite wall. Add one confused subcontractor with the wrong drilling template. Skimp on project management and then stir. It’s the perfect recipe for a signage disaster. Whether it’s keeping tabs via paper files or using software to track a dimensional signage job, oversight and scrutiny are the keys to avoiding missed deadlines, making underbids, S22

SBI Dimensional //  January 2013

and losing profits. Fred Nickels, owner of Nickels Signs & Graphics in Corinth, Mississippi, considered sign management software to help him organize projects, but it proved to be a hard sell. “For a small shop like ours, we turn things so quickly that we find it more cumbersome to go in and click and use it,” he says. Yet as a sign business grows, its owner may look to database software, particularly when

Photo courtesy of cnd signs.


Photo courtesy of cnd signs.


Proprietary Software Designed for Sign Shops it comes to managing larger dimensional signage projects. Robert Hilterbrick is vice president/general manager of Bach Sign Group in Hobe Sound, Florida, which produces dimensional signage for multi-location retail establishments (including Bank of America and Wells Fargo). He hired a consultant to tweak the interface with Sage ACT! (a relational database program), increasing its functionality with MS Outlook and customizing screens and tickers. Hilterbrick’s software consultant analyzed the sign shop’s operation—from sales and estimates to installation and permitting—and customized the program’s reporting options to match the sign maker’s needs. “We can hit a button once a week and punch out a graph of all of the permitting information,” he says. (Note: The company retained its non-digital project-scheduling boards, and continues to update those three times a day.) Tailoring the program’s user interface boosted the sign shop’s response time. “When a problem crops up, deal with it right away,” advises Hilterbrick. “Don’t be afraid to make decisions and keep the customer informed.” John Yarger, president of North American Signs in South Bend, Indiana, says his company’s in-house IT staff created a proprietary .net software system from the ground up, which was designed to manage volumes of signage project data. The firm has supervised dimensional signage jobs involving hundreds of locations (including 325 Red Roof Inn installations). Yarger says multi-location dimensional sign projects require continual oversight. “It’s a lot of tracking and keeping a good understanding of what’s happening at each site—the permitting situation, site conditions, pole conditions, etc.,” he says. Yarger cautions that even customized software only goes so far, as a sign project’s success ultimately depends upon having the right people in place to stay on top of it. Whether it’s code checks or managing installers, having a project manager onboard who is tasked with ensuring work is done correctly and on time is essential.


ign Tracker ( in Austin, Texas markets a computer application specifically designed to help sign shop owners in danger of drowning in an avalanche of paper. The company’s mission: “Be free of your dry-erase board.” CEO Joe

Arenella originally developed the software for his own signage business, Sign Tech International, as the company eventually grew over the course proprietary software

continued on page S24

January 2013 // SBI Dimensional


SPECIAL • Dimensional

Proprietary Software Designed for Sign Shops proprietary software continued from page S23

of a decade to around sixty employees. “When I sold my sign shop, I decided I was going to turn this thing into an application that

sign companies could use to manage their workflow,” he says. Sign Tracker stores notes, attaches files, and time-stamps entries (recording the note’s


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author). The program also includes “every form you can imagine for managing a sign project,” says Arenella. Yet software alone isn’t enough— sign shops can’t keep workflow organized without weekly production meetings that prioritize jobs, he says. Christian Martinez, co-owner of CND Signs & Printing, a sign shop in Austin, Texas, says Sign Tracker software equipped his salesman to deliver on-the-spot bids, giving his shop a competitive advantage. “Whenever he sells something, he doesn’t need to come to the office. He just uploads all the files and the information, so we can do the estimating and the artwork,” he says. The company’s nimble response time recently snatched a job away from a competitor twenty minutes after Martinez had given the potential customer a quickturnaround quote on the estimated cost of the sign.

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3M Commercial Graphics . . . . . . . 38 Agilight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Allwood Sign Blanks . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 38 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 38 A .R .K . Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 A .R .K . Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S7 AXYZ International . . . . . . . . . . . S14 Brinks MFG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 CAO Group, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C2 Car Top Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Coastal Enterprises . . . . . . . . . . . S24 Custom Foam Fabricators . . . . . . S13 Delcam International . . . . . . . . . S23 DSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Duxbury Systems, Inc . . . . . . . . . . 39 Elliott Equipment Corporation . . . . 29 Epilog Laser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S15 Fastenation, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Flexmag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 FASTSIGNS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Gemini, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Graphic House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Hartlauer Bits, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Howard Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . S19 Lancaster Sign Company . . . . . . . . 38 Magnum Magnetics . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Manitex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Marabu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Master Magnetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Matthews Paint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Metomic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S8 Mimaki USA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Mimaki USA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Orbus Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Orbus Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

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Companies in the Sign Show

38 Ornamental Post

Panel & Traffic . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Outwater Plastics Industries, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Safety Speed Manufacturing . . . . S17 Shopbot Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S8 SloanLED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Southern Stud Weld . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Stimpson Company, Inc . . . . . . . . . 14 Techno, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S21 Therm Wood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S11 Trim-Lok, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Trotec Laser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S20 Universal Laser Systems . . . . . . S10 US LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S2 Vutek, EFI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4 Z3 Graphics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31


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Aurora Specialty Textiles . . . . . . . 12 Corel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 EFI/VUTEk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Esko Artwork . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Fisher Textiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Halco Lighting Technologies . . . . . 13 LaserBits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 LEDtronics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 MACtac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 MaxLite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Mimaki . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Roland DGA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Sun Americas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 UltraFlex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



/ By Jeff Wooten /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Framed! The art of selecting awning materials and styles.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013



wnings are being used for protection (from the sun and the weather), as a complement to the architecture, or as signage (or even all three at once). But has there been a recent shift into a new way clients are now using awning materials? Awning Matrix ( of Ontario, California is a fullservice manufacturer of commercial, residential, and wholesale awnings. The company works with their accounts and as a third-party resource for sign shops in designing graphics for awnings, fabricating frames and covers, and installing them. Co-Owners Mark and Rosana Burg have a long history working with awning companies and have seen their fair share of trends. “The biggest trend today is that merchants and institutions are using their awnings more as a marketing tool to reinforce their identity or their brand than as use as signage,� says Rosana.

January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


And it’s this shift that’s led to some new questions sign makers need to consider when determining the awning material for clients. “You need to know if the [awning] is intended to be used primarily as a sign or as protection,” says Bryan Rose, vice president and general manager of awning materials manufacturer Cooley/Group ( “Are the warranty requirements going to cover your client’s request? Will you be adding graphics to it through eradication, vinyl appliqué, or direct printing? Is it going to be front-lit or back-lit?” If they don’t already have instructions from their client’s corporate headquarters, Awning Matrix always finds out first if the awning is strictly for looks or for function (shade, protection, etc.). This is where the company had noticed the use of awnings to reinforce an identity or theme. “Graphics on awnings are more subtle with the architecture these days. Chili’s® locations now have a ghosting effect on their awnings (almost like a watermark), and you’ll see the image of an apple on Applebee’s® awnings,” says Rosana. “One reason is that some cities won’t allow loud stripes on awnings anymore.” Awning Matrix has been using the popular Sunbrella® fabrics from Glen Raven ( in a lot of projects that require the awning to carry the identity or accent the building. But since this is material is water-repellant and not waterproof, they also gravitate toward Cooley/Group’s newer Weathertyte® materials for canopies and awnings intended more for weather protection. “They’ve put a texture on this PVC material to make it look like fabric,” says Rosana. “It’s inkjet-printable and receives pressure-sensitive vinyl well. You can also paint them.” Rose adds that, if you’re going to be printing directly to the awning fabric or material, it’s always important to test the material’s compatibility with whatever inks are being used. “All you have to do is print four-color blocks on a small piece of the substrate,” he explains. “Then let it dry and then do a quick cross-hatch ink adhesion test and a flexibility test to make sure it doesn’t crack.” Styles. Awning Matrix notes that the open-end blade awning style is proving very popular with their commercial accounts. “It’s a flat, very simple look,” 28

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

Some cities won’t allow loud stripes on awnings anymore.

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Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

says Rosana, “and it can be employed with lots of different materials. “Chase® Bank and McDonald’s® locations are using the blade style with metal, while Chili’s and Applebee’s are using fabrics. New T.G.I. Friday’s® are keeping fabrics and vinyl with this style.” Awning Matrix also does a lot of awning work for outdoor malls. “Backlit vinyls were big here five or six years ago,” says Rosana, “but they’re embracing fabric or canvas nowadays because it features a little bit of a warmer look.” As for back-lit awnings, the big need to address here is a uniform color. “You don’t have to worry about this with frontlit, as you’re not going to see any of the potential non-uniformities in the color,” says Rosana Burg. “And if you’re going to be using LED lighting, a lighter weight material is typically better, because you’ll get a very vibrant color and less lights to actually achieve the same results.” (Note: She adds that LEDs are increasing here because of Title 24 requirements and perceived energy savings.) Awning Matrix though has noticed a decrease in back-lit awnings. “Most of the major brands are choosing a frontlit style, because it has a nice, linear look that a lot of businesses and companies are trying to incorporate with their theme,” explains Rosana. Colors. Cooley/Group’s Rose has found that the most popular colors being used for awnings these days, in addition to white, are actually darker hues like red, burgundy, forest green, and black. “Awnings aren’t being used as much to promote a ‘look-at-me’ agenda anymore,” he says. “It’s more about having a rich look that accentuates the architecture or message. “These darker colors fit into most of the major brand colors. Take Starbucks® and their forest green hue, for example.” Rosana Burg agrees that super-bright yellows and oranges are passé these days. “We recently did blade-type awnings for the Paul Martin chain restaurants that were a mix of black and brown, almost like a mahogany stripe,” she says. However this doesn’t mean vivid awning colors are extinct. It’s all about what extends the identity or brand best. “We did some awnings for Dylan’s Candy Bar [boutique shops] that used vivid colors,” says Burg. “But they’re a candy shop with a colorful theme, so we

ried that through on their awnings.” It’s not only important for sign shops to recognize trends in awning styles and materials but also to get a head-start on identifying markets that might be open to them. Awning Matrix points out surprisingly that banks have started using awnings more, citing their recent work for Chase Bank. “Banks have always been real conservative in nature. They mainly placed them over ATMs so people could conduct their business without the sun glaring on their screens,” says Rosana. “But Chase is using awnings to carry a very strong message and reinforce their identity. Their blue awnings with metal letters and LED lighting is a nice image. “I think more banks are going to be wondering why they can’t do the same. You might start seeing them incorporate awnings in this manner more, as they recuperate from the recession.” Earth Friendly. With LEED qualifications in place on new constructions, environmentally friendly green initiatives are starting to get big with awnings.

Among the buzzwords: “Lighter weight,” “recyclability,” and “sustainability built into the material.” In fact, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics has already made waves by premiering Sunbrella® Renaissance Unity, the industry’s first awning and shade fabrics featuring 50 percent post-industrial recycled fiber from trade partners, internal and external sources, and the company’s Recycle My Sunbrella program, to create a canvas look with fade-resistance and sun-protection qualities. “Unity fabrics have a vintage look that is subtly textural and feels very substantial,” says Vince Hankins, industrial business manager for Glen Raven Custom Fabrics. (Note: The initial launch of Unity fabrics includes five solid colors: Garnet, Leaf, Char, Granite, and Ashe.) Hankins adds that the Unity fabrics are GREENGUARD Children and Schools Certified, an international standard contributing to indoor air quality. “This makes [Unity] attractive for use inside sun-lit atriums and solari-

ums popular today for resorts, offices, and retail settings,” he says. Cooley/Group’s Rose mentions that many manufacturers have excellent take back/recycling programs where shops can send back materials regardless of how it was decorated, so you need to resist the temptation to take down and reuse materials in another awning project. “The challenge with reusing an awning material is that its life expectancy might not add value to a project,” he explains. “If the material has an eight-year life expectancy and has already been used for eight years in another location, it’s not going to last much longer. “And it’s just not going to look as good, which could hurt the client and your reputation. So it’s best to use new material.” Looking ahead, Rosana Burg has heard talk about being able to eventually embed a solar-type panel into awning fabric. “Then the awnings could be able to collect the sun for illumination,” she says. —Additional reporting provided by Amanda Williams.

January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated




Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Digital Printing / By Ashley BrAy

Now TreNdiNg iN

Digital Printing Examining the trends and technologies in inkjet.

I Photo of agfa graPhics wall graPhic.

n the sign industry, technology is always improving and getting faster, but this is perhaps nowhere as evident as in the digital printing sector. The industry is booming, and according to the SGIA 2012 Market Trends & Product Specialties report on the Graphics & Sign Community, nearly 95 percent of respondent companies say they produce digitally printed products. Let’s take a closer look at this sector to learn what new technologies and markets are shaping production.

Hardware With the advent of faster, more agile digital printers, a sign shop’s must-have list has expanded. Speed is still a top factor, as well as reliability, image quality, and superior color management for those shops dealing with corporate color profiles. In today’s competitive market, flexibility is also important. “Shops today are expecting more out of their printer than ever before. With a focus on increasing revenue, growing profits, and diversity into other markets and new applications, print shops have become and continue to become jacks of all trades,” says Dave Conrad, marketing manager at Mutoh America, Inc. “The days of having specialized equipment for specific applications are fading.”

January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Photo (lEft) of 3m window graPhic PrintEd by EPson; Photo (right) courtEsy of mutoh.

above left Thanks to advances in white ink, printed window clings and backlit signs are now possible.

Speed, image quality, and reliability are still major factors shops consider when choosing a digital printer.

above right

below More fabric displays are being used in tradeshow booths, as evidenced in this PrinterEvolution booth setup, creating opportunities in the dye-sublimation market.

On the other hand, Mark Radonga, group product manager at Epson, points out that there’s a difference between flexibility and excess. “People are smart. They don’t want to pay for technology they’re never going to use,” he says. The type of printer—roll-to-roll or flatbed—can also affect the versatility of production. Roll-to-roll printers have always been popular, but flatbeds are starting to come to the forefront. A reason for this demand may be the need to expand. “Almost all sign companies start off as a roll-to-roll sign company. And as they become successful, a light bulb goes on, and they realize they can’t grow their gross revenue anymore unless they start offering direct, rigid output,” says Radogna. “The customer cannot compete by creating a sign on a vinyl and then laminating or gluing or sticking it to foamboard. It’s slower and way too expensive.”

As a result, shops will invest in either a true flatbed printer or opt for a hybrid printer. Demand for flatbed printers may also be caused by the advent of UV LED curing technology. “UV LED curing technology is the future. And the reason why is that we can make a smaller, more compact, less costly engine mechanism to cure UV-based inks,” says Radogna. “Those inks, right now, are the only way to print on rigid, thick materials because you don’t have to use heat to cure the ink.” But the technology isn’t perfect, and the industry has been slow to adopt it so far. “With any new technology there’s always a compromise, and the compromise we’ve seen is speed,” says Larry D’Amico, vice president of Digital Imaging at Agfa Graphics. “Nobody’s going to want it if they have to slow the machine down.” To get the speed to match industry standards, the cost is high. As Radogna points out, more LEDs or exotic forms of LEDs are required, so the price goes up.

As hardware changes, so too does the ink used in the machines. Additional colors such as orange and violet are being added to the typical CMYK, and inks are also becoming more environmentally friendly with the addition of latex and eco-solvent options. But one of the biggest developments in recent years has been white ink. “White ink is an incredibly important component of any printing system today 34

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

Photo courtEsy of PrintErEvolution.


because of the vast market demand,” says Greg Lamb, CEO of Global Imaging, Inc., and PrinterEvolution. “The inks are becoming whiter and more opaque, requiring less lay down, which all adds up to cost savings.” As white inks have been perfected, they have opened up the possibilities for new applications and markets, including window clings and backlit signs. “This development gives sign shops the ability to expand their product offering, become more efficient in their printing process, and grow to service existing markets more efficiently and new markets they may not have been able to penetrate before,” says Conrad. “It makes it easier for the sign shop to print on a wider variety of substrates and offer finished products they may not have been able to produce for existing and new customers in the past.” Metallic inks are also opening doors for sign makers “Metallic offers a level of visual impact that has allowed shop owners to charge significantly more,” says Andrew Oransky, director of Marketing & Product Management at Roland DGA. “We recently surveyed our installed base and discovered that service providers were able to charge almost 30 percent more on average.” But awareness needs to catch on for metallic inks to fully enter the industry. “I do believe inks that are truly metallic will start to take off once sign builders start to market and promote the ability to print things with metallic inks,” says Radogna.

“Shops today are expecting more out of their printer than ever before. With a focus on increasing revenue, growing profits, and diversity into other markets and new applications, print shops have become jacks of all trades.”

— Dave Conrad, Mutoh America

Photo courtEsy of agfa graPhics.

Markets The development and improvements in hardware, inks, and printing technologies have all paved the way for sign makers to enter previously untapped markets such as walls, ceilings, floors, and windows—also known as digital décor. “That addressable market is estimated to be comparative in square feet as our traditional signage and display market with less than 5 percent of that market currently being done in a digital manner,” says Lamb. Another expanding area is customization. “The ability to print directly to everything from iPhone cases and key chains to sunglasses and gun grips has offered new possibilities to an industry that until very recently was limited to pad printing,” says Oransky. But two of the markets that might

January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated


fer the greatest opportunities are dyesublimation and packaging. Dye-Sublimation. “With the opportunity to grow into new markets such as soft signage, flags, apparel, and home furnishings, the allure of textile printing is high,” says Conrad. Demand has increased for a number of reasons. For one, the look and feel of fabric works well in retail shops and on tradeshow booths. In addition, fabric is much lighter than other substrates, so shipping costs are reduced. It also offers a greener alternative to PVC-based materials. Fabric printing is also a market that remains unsaturated. “We at PrinterEvolution estimate that there are roughly one-hundred industrial ten-foot-wide fabric printers in the USA, and that there are roughly 60,000 roll-to-roll and flatbed printers in the USA,” says Lamb. “I think that should give you an idea of why one market is highly profitable and the other is becoming more commoditized.” But sign shops should be careful to ensure that they have the demand for

the product before entering the market. “I’d still call it a relative niche, and unless you’re dedicated to that market and have the volume for it, you can’t buy the bigger, higher-end machines to really run it effectively the way it should be done,” says D’Amico. Packaging. Digital printing developments are allowing for an ideal set up for some shops to enter the packaging prototype market. “For instance, the ability to create realistic prototypes has been enhanced by the fact that LED UV printers can print on thin bag films, shrink films, and other heat-sensitive materials without any special coatings or handling,” says Oransky.

Developments in inks have also leant themselves to this market. Metallic inks are popular, and white allows users to print on materials frequently used in packaging, such as clear substrates and cardboard. Of course, the increased adoption of flatbeds and hybrid printers also means the ability to print on more rigid substrates. But the question of demand in sign shops is still a big one. “That market’s still unknown as to whether or not it will be a mainstream product,” says Radogna. “There are inks and technologies coming to market that will probably be better suited for this segment, so stay tuned on that one.”

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Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

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Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

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January 2013 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Jeff Wooten

K&L Chrome Shop / Outcast Kustoms

The Reality

Behind the Reality


For more production stories from Outcast Kustoms, visit www. 40

After two seasons of the slightly exaggerated Trick My Truck, the Locklears wanted to do a show using truck designs, remodels, and wraps that people could actually drive and use. “The Discovery Velocity folks liked our shop and our concept, so they gave us the green light,” says April. Outcast Kustoms starts filming season two this month. They plan to get more technical on the builds and provide information about prepping and laminating wraps. They even intend to cover one project over two episodes. To handle their additional production needs, they started using a Roland SOLJET XC-540MT 54-inch printer/cutter with metallic ink. “The sparkly silver ink looks awesome!” says April. “It adds a ‘pop’ that you can’t get from the CMYK mixture. “I’ll patch it in on a couple of things that I think it will look awesome on. It’s definitely easier to sell it to clients when you show it to them instead of just telling them you have it.” The exposure from the series has been interesting for the Locklears. “Every week, there’s at least three or four people, couples, or groups that will stop in and be surprised to see us really working,” chuckles April. “But we’re not actors. This really is what we do every day.”

all Photos courtesy of outcast kustoms.

n last month’s Dispatches, we showed you how married couple April and Kelvin Locklear, owners of big rig customization shop Outcast Kustoms ( and stars of their company’s self-titled reality series on the Discovery Channel’s Velocity Network, wrapped a challenging design on a thirtyeight-foot-long RV for the Bristol Motor Speedway during their first season. Other projects showcased during this first season included vehicles for corporations like Krispy Kreme (a seventy-fifth anniversary van), Jack Link’s Beef Jerky (a vinyl wrap and “you’ve got to be kidding me” eighty-inch TV installed onto the back of their touring truck), and Detroit Radiator Corp. (a custom truck for vendor events). The first season actually ended up being a bit of baptism by fire, as the network pushed up the premiere of the first episode from April to March, cutting thirty days out of the production schedule. “We were still building the last few vehicles when the first episodes aired,” says April. “We didn’t sleep much during filming.” Fortunately Outcast Kustoms was accustomed to television production, already having appeared on Speed’s American Trucker, Travel Channel’s Outrageous Rigs, and CMT’s Trick My Truck.

In the first season, Outcast Kustoms designed a truck wrap for Jack Link’s Beef Jerky that incorporated a TV.

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2013

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Sign Builder Illustrated January 2013  

The January 2013 issue features stories on digital printing trends, awnings, and a special supplement dedicated to dimensional signage. Also...

Sign Builder Illustrated January 2013  

The January 2013 issue features stories on digital printing trends, awnings, and a special supplement dedicated to dimensional signage. Also...